Retractable tonneau covers are a popular truck bed cover option that provide easy access to your truck bed while also keeping cargo secure and protected. However, over time, the plastic canister that houses the rolling cover can develop stress cracks due to wear and tear. Repairing these cracks is important to prevent further cracking and ensure smooth operation of your cover.
What Causes Stress Cracks On Retractable Tonneau Covers?
There are a few potential causes of stress cracks on retractable tonneau covers:
Frequent Opening and Closing
The frequent rolling and unrolling of the cover puts stress on the plastic canister housing and can cause cracks over time. The plastic becomes fatigued and eventually cracks under the repetitive strain.
Exposure to Extreme Temperatures
In very cold or very hot conditions, the plastic housing may expand and contract, leading to stress cracks. This is especially true if opening or closing the cover during temperature extremes.
Dropping heavy objects on the canister or impact from road debris can cause immediate cracks or weaken the housing and cause cracks later on.
Poor Quality Materials
Some tonneau covers are made from thinner, cheaper plastics that are more prone to cracking than higher quality materials.
If the cover is opened or closed forcefully, instead of being smoothly operated, it can put extra strain on the plastic housing.
How Serious Are Stress Cracks On Retractable Tonneau Covers?
Small stress cracks may not immediately affect the function of your retractable cover. However, it’s important to address them quickly before they spread and become more serious. Larger cracks can:
- Allow water to leak into the canister and damage the rolling mechanism
- Compromise the security of stored cargo
- Prevent the cover from opening and closing properly
- Expose the canister internals to dirt and debris
Severe cracks that go unrepaired can even lead to complete failure of the cover system. The cracked housing may break apart, rendering the cover unusable.
What’s Needed To Repair Stress Cracks?
Repairing stress cracks on your retractable tonneau cover will require:
- Cleaning supplies – Soap, water, towels, etc. to clean the area before repair
- Sandpaper – Fine grit to rough up surface for better adhesion
- Fiberglass repair kit – Includes resin and hardener
- Applicators – Putty knife, paint brush, etc. to apply resin mixture
- Paint/clear coat – To match housing color after repair
- Safety gear – Gloves, goggles, mask to protect yourself
Step-By-Step Instructions For Repairing Cracks:
Repairing stress cracks is a straightforward process, though care should be taken with each step. Here are the detailed steps to follow:
1. Clean The Area Thoroughly
Use soap and water to remove any dirt, grease or debris around the crack. This allows the repair material to properly bond to the surface. Dry the area completely.
2. Rough Up The Surface With Sandpaper
Lightly sand around the crack using 400-600 grit sandpaper. This scratches up the smooth plastic so the repair material adheres better.
3. Mix The Fiberglass Resin
Mix the resin and hardener according to kit directions, generally a 2:1 ratio. Stir thoroughly until uniformly mixed.
4. Apply Resin Mixture Over The Crack
Use a putty knife to spread the resin mixture over the crack, extending a few inches past either side. Cover the area completely.
5. Allow Resin To Cure
Let the resin mixture harden completely, which usually takes 4-6 hours. Cure times vary based on temperature.
6. Sand The Repaired Area Smooth
Once cured, use 400-600 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repair and level it with the surrounding surface.
7. Apply Paint Or Clear Coat
To help blend the repair, apply matching paint or clear coat over the sanded area. Allow to dry per product instructions.
8. Test Operation And Check For Leaks
Fully open and close the cover several times to ensure smooth operation. Check for any water leaks around the repaired crack.
Tips For Preventing Future Stress Cracks
To help avoid more cracks in your retractable tonneau cover housing:
- Open and close the cover smoothly without jerking motions
- Avoid stepping directly on the canister
- Clean off any snow/ice before operating in winter
- Park in the shade when possible to limit temperature extremes
- Apply UV protectant to prevent sun damage to the plastic
- Get cracks repaired quickly before they spread
- Consider upgrading to a thicker, higher quality housing if cracks reoccur
When To Call A Professional For Repairs
While small stress cracks can be repaired DIY, it’s best to call a truck accessory shop for help if:
- The cracks are longer than a few inches
- Significant portions of the housing have cracked
- The cover is now leaking water into the canister
- The cover jams and no longer opens smoothly
- You don’t feel comfortable doing the repair yourself
The shop can assess the severity of the damage and determine if replacement parts or a new cover may be needed. Leaking water inside the canister can damage the retractable mechanism.
Prolong Your Tonneau Cover Lifespan With Proper Maintenance
A few stress cracks in your retractable tonneau cover housing are normal over time. Catching them early and repairing the cracks properly will extend the life of your cover and prevent further damage. Be sure to operate the cover carefully, park smart, and get repairs done as soon as cracks appear. With diligent care and maintenance, your retractable tonneau cover can reliably protect your truck bed cargo for years to come.